The Summer Suns opened their official practice schedule today, with the first practice of two-a-days and an introduction on how they are going to play over the next two weeks.
"Trying to win the whole thing," Archie Goodwin said of his focus this year. "Last year we didn't play as good as we should have. I didn't play as good as I should have."
After making it to the inaugural SL championship game when he was a rookie, his summer team flopped to an undermanned 2-3 record last year. Fellow second year player Alex Len got hurt just 3 quarters into play, Miles Plumlee only played sparingly, and veterans Tucker and the Morrii didn't play at all.
This year, every draft pick from the 2013, 2014 and 2015 drafts is on hand for SL, including last year's starting center Alex Len.
Media were allowed into the practice as the guys were warming down, stretching.
The summer coach this year is high-energy Nate Bjorkgren, who lead the D-League Bakersfield team to a 34-16 record last year and a playoff berth before losing all his players to the Suns (due to injury) by the time the playoffs started.
They run the same sets as the Suns, so the veteran players Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, T.J. Warren, and Jerel McNeal knew exactly what to expect. Coach talked about the current Suns players who helped the new guys find their way today.
"There was great leadership on that end," he said of Len, Goodwin, Warren and McNeal. "To some of these new guys fighting for spots on the roster."
Having spent years coaching in the D-League and now moving to the Suns staff as a player development coach, Bjorkgren knows all about motivating players who shuffle in and out and don't know all the plays all the time. He knows how to get the most out of them while also helping them showcase what it takes to make a squad.
"That the guys play hard, and play hard for each other," Bjorkgren said. "You know, the #1 thing in SL is these guys are there to try to help their individual futures. They're looking to maybe get a spot in the NBA or get a spot overseas. The only that works is if you play hard for each other. And these guys have to do great things in the team concept and then everybody looks good."
Now, let's move to the Suns players who, as Len noted, just might be playing with each other a lot off the bench this next season.
"Alex looked great today," coach Bjorkgren said. "He's been working hard even in his individual workouts prior to today. He's a man in the middle that can really protect that rim for you.
"And offensively guys, he's very skilled. You're going to see him diving to the rim, catching, making plays and finishing. He can step on to the arc and shoot the three. He is very skilled."
Now let's hear Alex talk on a variety of subjects, including his new teammate Tyson Chandler, his newfound stretch game and his mindset coming into the summer league play.
"I've seen him show flashes of brilliance," Bjorkgren said of Goodwin. "What Archie did today was outstanding in practice, his ability to really pressure you on defense. I thought he was getting into the paint and making some nice plays on offense. That's another guy you're going to see some nice things from."
Let's hear Archie talk about his focus this summer (hint: winning games, whatever it takes), his offseason focus (hint: getting stronger) and what new wrinkles he's added to his game (hint: none provided).
Love how Archie just dropped the mic and walked off, per se. He's got swagger.
"Our offense will be spread out," Bjorkgren said. "I don't get caught up in the positions they play, but you'll see anything from the 2, 3 or 4. He's a great wing who can really attack in transition. You guys know he can get to the middle of that lane and cause problems. He's a lot of fun to coach."
Now let's hear T.J.
He's the epitome of the wide-eyes rookie who doesn't know what he doesn't know yet. I just hope he keeps his confidence and wows us with some nice shots from the wing.
I'm praying he becomes a rotation player next year just so I can interview him after games in the locker room. Compared to Alex, T.J. and Archie, this dude Booker is a major energy boost with his delivery and open answers.
But hey, that's just me.